It’s been a while, it seems to me, since I’ve offered you all a quick and easy weeknight meal. I recall that there was a period in there where I did a pasta with greens and a fried rice, and told you, with some conviction, that this is really the essence of what it means to cook. I believe I wrote that while baked goods are nice, and elaborate dishes are all well and good, they offer paltry savor indeed, if you cannot also feed yourself from day to day.
And then I dropped that thread from the blog. I got wrapped up in lacto-fermentation, and intricate things with many steps, and I lost sight of what is really important.
Today, I hope to rectify that error — spectacularly — with what may be one of my very favorite flavor combinations ever: leeks and miso.
A friend of mine — a professor with whom I work — turned me onto this. She and her husband cook up big batches of the combination, she told me, and use it almost like a condiment. They slather it on steaks, use it to liven up rice, eat it on bread — or just with a spoon, when there’s no obvious vehicle around. Try it, she told me. You won’t be disappointed.
Well — color me a convert. Obviously, when culinary knowledge was being handed out, when it was first impressed upon me how to taste, somebody left something out. The leek-miso combination is dead simple. But like other simple food experiences, there is something beautiful and elemental about it. To me it is like the smell of frying onions, or the taste of raw milk. Tasting it, I get the sense of something just right.
Today’s experiment takes that and expands it. I call it a stir-fry because I don’t know what else to call it. It is stir-fry-like, but you might call it sautéed leeks with miso, or a leeky miso mess, and that would be just as accurate. I’ve taken the centerpiece flavor, here, added some vegetables and tofu, added a couple of flavors that I thought would be complementary, and left it at that.
It takes fifteen minutes or so to prepare. Served over rice, it is a meal. Or, if you decide that you want to do something more elaborate for dinner, after all, it makes a great side dish, too.
The version that I’m giving you here is vegan. But if you want to add some animal products, you can do that, too. I imagine that it would be good with cubed poached chicken instead tofu. (Though why you wouldn’t want tofu, I couldn’t say.) And I know for sure — because I tried it with the leftovers — that it is excellent with a fried egg on top.
At any rate — I will stop talking and let you get to it. You’re all busy people with a limited time to cook. And I am sure — sure — that your next couple of minutes would be better spent making miso-leek dinner than reading anything I might possibly have to say.
6-8 Leeks, trimmed, sliced, and washed
3 Carrots, diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Package of Extra Firm Tofu, drained and cubed
1/4 cup Miso (I used white miso this time, but I have enjoyed it with red in the past)
Toasted Sesame Oil
To a hot sauté pan (or wok) over a medium-high flame, add some vegetable oil. Add the leeks, carrots, and a pinch of salt, and cook until the vegetables begin to soften (this should be fairly quick, if your pan is hot enough).
Mix the miso and garlic in thoroughly, add pepper (to taste), and allow the whole thing to cook for about a minute, just until you get a clear whiff of cooking garlic. Then stir in the tofu cubes — gently, so you don’t break them — and allow the whole thing to cook for about two minutes more.
Finish with a bare drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and serve piping hot, in a bowl over white or brown rice.